ANDRE THOMAS PICKS HIS CLAPTON XI AS TONS LEGEND PAYS EMOTIONAL FAREWELL

Andre Thomas said farewell to the Clapton fans on an emotional night at the Mile End Stadium.

He’s been coach, he’s been assistant manager, he’s been caretaker manager, but for one night only Andre also became the Ultras’ capo, leading some of the songs himself.

On the pitch, the Tons bounced back from going 1-0 down to a Sporting Bengal side who often prove to be a thorn in our side.

Ryan Reed scored the first two, including the pearler of a free-kick below, before Jeffrey Cobblah sealed the points with perhaps an even lovelier run and shot.

So club legend Andre departed with a 3-1 win, leaving the Tons in sixth place, and in the celebrations afterwards he turned the tables by singing one of the Ultras’ songs back at them.

We couldn’t let him leave us without asking him to compile his best ever Clapton XI from his two years at the club.

So, as Andre jumps on the District Line to Upney, to take up the assistant manager’s job with ambitious Bostik League side Barking, here’s his team in a 3-4-1-2 formation.

Goalkeeper

It’s a position that we have always had issues filling after Pape Diagne.

As you know, “there’s only one king Pepe, he keeps the ball out the netty,” but recently we’ve been blessed with the talents of Richie Robins, Emmanuel Olajide, Ignas Budvytis and Mark Kavanagh.

Even when Pape was around we had Alex Biddle and Yakup Seyer who also make credible bids.

However the keeper I’m going to go with is a leader, who talks as much as me, has great reactions, good feet, great kicking and in my opinion is a complete GK who is always trying to get better.

My goalkeeper is Emmanuel Olajide.

Right-sided centre-back

In a back three I’ve gone for someone who’s comfortable playing in a few positions just in case we need to change it during the game.

There’s other natural centre-backs I could have gone with but I know that this guy would give me his all then go get some from the opposition and then give me that too.

He’ll probably complain about playing here telling me this isn’t his position but he’ll stop sulking as soon as the whistle has blown and probably end up getting the Man of The Match Award.

It was a flip of the coin between he and Lanre Vigo but my right-sided centre-back is Kristian Haighton.

Centre back

So many names come to mind. I think of Euan Taylor-Reid, the cup final penalty specialist; Idu Bogdan, who is as hard as a rock; Pete Moore, the coach on the pitch who always talks; Quincy Egbejale, legs long enough to cover the back four; Eamon Payne, goalscoring centre-back; Jamie Lyndon, Mr No Nonsense.

There’s also Zach Miller, Jesse Mckenzie, Nick Loblack, Hussain Jaffa and even Freddie Morris who wouldn’t wanna play there but could.

However, I’ve gone with a centre back who is strong, fast, aggressive, technically sound, understands what I require and he’s a funny guy.

Great character in the dressing room, always has his teammates backs and is the first one swinging his handbag. I’m going with Dylan Ebengo.

Left-sided centre-back

As I said earlier, in a back three I’ve gone for someone who’s comfortable playing in a few positions just in case we need to change it during the game.

On this side I’ve gone with a player who I feel can play this position as I’ve simply not seen a man take him on one-on-one and beat him. That will always give the team confidence.

Again Pete Moore, Francis Best-Ebanks and Yusuf Bello make solid claims as they’re all naturally left footed, strong and good defenders.

However, I’ve gone with the super impressive, super hero Tayo Awoderu. He’ll have to come training though, lol.

Central midfielders x 2

I think the two midfield positions, along with the two forwards, will be the hardest decision.
With the options available to me, it’s very difficult.

Steven Sardinha, Freddie Morris, Bradley Joseph, Paul Oshin, Geoff Ocran, Paul Barry, Reece Hewitt, Louis Rene, Scott Hill, Siao Blackwood and JoJo DeGraft are a few of the many midfield generals I’ve worked with, all packed with experience, quality, pace, power, packed with lungs of a V8 engine, skill, trickery, goals and unreal technique.

The only reason I’ve selected these two to be the midfielders holding for me is because they’ve got everything I’ve listed above and they both ‘get it’. I’m not saying the rest don’t because they definitely do.

The reason they do is because of the levels these two midfielders have set.
When the going gets tough I want someone who’ll put their body on the line, even if it means broken limbs.

In addition to that if we need a 90th minute goal and we have a free kick I wanna make sure he’s on them.

The two midfielders I’ve gone with are the Clapton legends Jerry Jairette and James Briggs.

Left-wing (back)

This player has improved so so much, was under the radar.

He dedicated himself to his craft and got fit and then caused havoc for opposition full backs.

He’s got two great feet, skills in abundance, great first touch and beautiful hair.

Another set piece specialist with the world going crazy for Messi and CR7, I’m glad to have RR7.

To play on the left wing is Ryan Reed.

Centre attacking midfield

Again many, many players who can play in this role. Raphael Duyile who is technically sublime as well as very versatile and intelligent was also an option.

So was Tom ‘goal machine’ Webb and even Stefan Nielsen.

But it’s got to go to a player that had Tons from the 2014-15 season in awe.

I won’t ever forget my first pre-season game when we played a Harold Hill XI and he had never played with these guys.

He had never played any level higher than this one and was playing with the likes of Billy Wise (who actually ran this guy very close for the vote), James Briggs, Shomari Barnwell, Troy Ricketts and JoJo Degraft yet looked superb, like he had been there for years and knew how to create magic.

Funnily enough he has now been here for 3 seasons and he does know how to create magic. He gets it from his hat.

Playing in the CAM role is Nathan Cook.

Right-wing (back)

Khadz Campbell, Aundre Spencer, Johnny Ashman, Raphael Duyile, Paul Barry and Jeffrey Cobblah. Players that come to mind when I think of stars that can play on that right hand side.

I’ve gone with a guy whose name rings bells but only rang the bells of his college colleagues before this.

He came to the club and played over 40 games in his first season only being on the bench once and this was due to his quality on the pitch, his attitude and attendance to training and the game, his hunger to fight off all that tried to take his spot and he’s done it once more.

To play on the right is none other than Johnny Ashman.

Centre forwards x 2

Clapton have been blessed with tremendous forwards and I’ve been lucky to work with the likes of Fahad Nyanja, Warren Mfula, Jay Knight, Ike Nzurba, Miles Hunter, Roddy Lemba, Sherwin Stanley, Tony Cookey and Ajani Domingo-Carrington to name a few.

However, I’ve gone with one of the most natural finishers I’ve worked with.

Top top forwards score with both feet and their head, this guy is able to do that and also score with his junk.

One of my two centre forwards is Jay Knight.

The reason I’ve selected the second guy is because for me he epitomises what a striker should be for me.

Hard-working, relentless, gives 100% effort for his team and the shirt he wears.

He’s a nightmare when you’re against him but a dream when he’s on your team.

I’ve seen him get into the heads of opposition players warming up on the side, he already gains the edge on them before they even get subbed on.

I call him my Non-League Diego Costa.

My forward to join Jay is none other than Mr Warren Mfula.

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CLAPTON FC FIRST TEAM COACH QUITS: ‘IT WAS SUCH A HARD DECISION’

Ray Bartlett has stepped down from his role as coach at Clapton

Ray Bartlett has quit as Clapton FC’s first team coach after two years at the club.

Former Takeley coach Ray unearthed many star players for the Tons, bringing in Ryan Reed, Steven Sardinha, Jay Knight, Aundre Spencer, Quincy Egbajale, Yusuf Bello, Jay Morris, Scott Hill, Mark Kavanagh, Nick Loblack, Josh Flynn and Mustafa Kahie among others.

However, Ray is now taking time out from football, meaning the Clapton management team is a trio with Jonny Fowell as manager, Andre Thomas as assistant, and Colin Reid as head coach. 

His decision to quit adds to the dark clouds hanging over the Clapton, with the attempt by the chief executive Vince McBean to liquidate the Old Spotted Dog ground, the subsequent fans’ boycott, and a disappointing start to the season.

In a message to the squad today, seen by CFC News, Ray wrote: “Guys I just wanted to let you know that I’m taking time out of football.

“Not sure whether I’ll be back in football or not, be that at Clapton or another club.

“There’s too many problems and politics going on behind the scenes, nothing is changing and it will start effecting things on the pitch soon.

“I feel really bad leaving Dre to do this all on his own, so he needs you guys to back and support him more than ever.

“I’ll never forget what a great season we had together last year and the memories that come with that.

“Just make sure you do everything the Clapton way and give 110% for Dre and the supporters.”

Speaking about his decision to quit, Ray told CFC News: “I’m so sad to be leaving, it was such a hard decision.

“The time and effort me and Dre have put into this club over the past year and a half feels like a full-time job.”

Ray praised Clapton assistant manager Andre Thomas as ‘like a brother’, which made his decision to quit even harder.

He said: “Dre has been like a brother to me, we clicked the first time we met. I was also very close with Mike Walther and when he asked me to join I could never say no.

“Which is why it makes it very hard to leave Clapton.”

Everyone at CFC News wishes Ray well and offers thanks for his magnificent efforts at the club, including helping propel the Tons to last season’s runners-up spot.

ELEVEN INS AND OUTS AS CLAPTON LOOK TO KICKSTART LEAGUE CAMPAIGN

Jonny Fowell has brought in Colin Reid as head coach

Manager Jon Fowell has added four new players and seen seven depart in recent weeks as Clapton look to get their Essex Senior League campaign back on track.

The Tons sit in seventeenth spot, just one place above relegation zone, after an iffy start to the league campaign, though enjoyed two great wins in the FA Cup, including against higher level Norwich United.

Fowell has also appointed former Macclesfield Town and Bishops Stortford coach Colin Reid as his new head coach, alongside assistant manager Andre Thomas and Ray Bartlett, the first team coach.

Having drawn a blank in front of goal in four of the nine matches this season, much of the player changes have been up front.

As the Tons look for their first home win of the season against Burnham Ramblers on Saturday, here we run through the changes since our last article on arrivals and departures.

 

Outs

Attacking midfielder Raphael Duyile, a near ever-present since returning to the club last season, has joined Essex Senior League rivals Barkingside. Rafa scored once this season and three times last but now reunites with former Clapton manager Mike Walther and has already played twice for the ‘Side.

Striker Craig Heskey has rejoined his former club Burnham Ramblers, for whom he scored 4 in 10 games at the end of last season. What are the odds on a goal on his return to the Old Spotted Dog on Saturday? Heskey started just one game in his second spell at Clapton plus two sub appearances.

Another striker Anton Stephenson also departs after taking the assistant manager’s job at Barking. He reunites with Justin Gardner, with whom he worked at Tower Hamlets. Stephenson started one game – the FA Cup tie at FC Clacton where he scored the only goal – and made two sub appearances. He appears to have also signed as a player for Redbridge.

Grafting midfielder Dean Bouho, pacy wideman Mustafa Kahie, composed centre-back Jordan Meikle and young striker Caiden Imbert-Thomas have also left the club after just 1 start and 2 sub appearances between them this season.

Ins

Greg Akpele made his Clapton debut in the 3-0 FA Cup defeat against Needham Market after signing from Non-League Chance. Announcing the signing, Fowell said attacker Akpele “will be a sensation at this level.”

Akpele caught the eye of higher level clubs after scoring 11 goals in the Essex Senior League for Basildon United four seasons ago. After trials with professional clubs, including Leyton Orient, Dagenham & Redbridge, he then went on to short spells at Braintree Town, Hampton & Richmond. Kingstonian, Cheshunt, VCD Athletic, Barkingside and Burnham Ramblers. Last season he was at Romford in the Isthmian North, where he bagged 6 goals.

Tall striker Ikem Odeh enjoyed a dream debut for the Tons, scoring on his debut against Norwich United. Starting as a youth at St Albans City, he’s since played for Cockfosters and Berkhamsted, in the Spartan South Midlands League, the same level as the ESL, scoring 2 in 30 appearances,

Also newly registered are Nick LoBlack, a former Haringey & Waltham Development defender, and former Ilford player Scott Hill.

TONS HANDED HOME TIE AGAINST NEEDHAM MARKET IN FA CUP

After beating Norwich United 2-0 on Saturday, Clapton have been drawn at home to Needham Market of the Isthmian League Premier Division in the FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round, due to be played on Saturday 2nd September.

The Marketmen currently sit 11th in the Bostik Premier with 4 points from 3 games. Last season they finished 9th – just 3 points off the Play-Offs to be promoted to the National League South.

As we reported yesterday, it is the first time since the 2005/06 season The Tons have reached the First Qualifying Round. However, as members of Isthmian League Division 2 at the time, Clapton hadn’t had to play in the Extra Preliminary Qualifying Round as they do now. We succumbed 4-2 away to Cogenhoe United that season.

If Clapton beat Needham Market, it will be the first time The Tons have reached the 2nd Qualifying Round since the 1998/99 season when we lost 1-0 at home to Purfleet. Winning will mean £3,000 in prize money, on top of the £3,425 already awarded from the FA Prize Fund for winning in the Extra Preliminary and Preliminary Qualifying rounds.

BASILDON UNITED 2 CLAPTON 0: TONS FALTER IN SEASON OPENER

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Steven Sardinha reflects on a disappointing start to the season

Last season’s success saw star players such as Jonny Ashman, Dylan Ebengo and Jay Knight depart for clubs further up the pyramid.

That along with summer holidays for some senior squad members like Jerry Jairette and Nathan Cook (not to mention manager Jonny Fowell) meant deputies Andre Thomas and Ray Bartlett fielded a youthful starting line-up featuring five new faces.

If anything the hosts had more debutants than the Tons. However, the core of the home team had made the move with new managerial duo Marc Harrison and Liam Wallace from neighbouring Basildon Town following their Essex Olympian League Division One title last season.

And the Bees’ better understanding and cohesion made the step up seem easy as they dominated for pretty much the whole game.

Goals either side of half-time from Tommy Barton and Marcus Bowers were just reward for the 90 minutes of pressing that never allowed Clapton to find their stride.

New Tons’ striker Craig Heskey and Jeffrey Cobbiah, who’s been impressive in pre-season, barely got a sniff as the hosts bossed the midfield.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ryan Reed posing a rare Clapton threat at Basildon United

The only hint of a Clapton threat came from Ryan Reed, whose excellent cut back on 70 minutes was met well by Cobbiah, only to see his effort cleared off the line.

A goal would have masked the gulf between the teams on the day, though, and Clapton will be looking to put it down to early season adjustments as they head to Ilford, who themselves won 5-0 at Woodford Town in their opener.

After the game, full-back Lanre Vigo and assistant manager Andre Thomas tweeted their disappointment at starting the season so slowly.

The game also featured on the front page of the Non-League Paper.

The photographer at the game for the paper, ESA Photos, also uploaded 82 match photos to their website..

The Basildon local paper, the Echo, also published a match report with quotes from the jubliant victorious manager Marc Harrison.

Meanwhile the Newham Recorder gave Clapton’s defeat a quick mention in the Essex Senior League round-up.

Local blogger Andy Wilkins was also there and wrote up a lengthy match report.

And ground hopper John Lawton also took some match photos.

ATTENDANCE: 281.

CFC NEWS MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: RYAN REED.

CLAPTON’S FA CUP AND FA YOUTH CUP DRAWS ANNOUNCED

The FA Vase draw was announced today but Clapton are already through to the first round proper

Clapton have been drawn away at FC Clacton in the FA Cup extra preliminary round.

The trip to the Essex seaside to face the Eastern Counties League club, who play at the same level as Clapton, will be on August 5th, the week after the Essex Senior League campaign begins.

If the Tons get through that, they’ll earn £1,500, then face Norwich United at home in the preliminary round two weeks later, August 19th.

Get past the Isthmian League North side and there’s just another 12 wins before we see Jerry Jairette lift the FA Cup trophy at Wembley.

Meanwhile Clapton did not feature in the FA Vase draw after being handed a bye to the first round proper for finishing in the top 4 in the Essex Senior League. They will make their debut on October 21st.

The Tons are also in the FA Youth Cup, and will travel away to Thurrock or Aveley during the week of September 18th.

Last season the team was withdrawn days before their tie due to lack of players, following the axing of the club’s youth system, but New Revolution Sports have stepped in to relaunch it now.

All three draws were made today behind closed doors at the FA HQ and published online this lunchtime.

MEET THE 11 NEW TONS – THE WHO’S WHO OF CLAPTON’S SUMMER SIGNINGS

There have been lots of comings and goings at the Old Spotted Dog this summer

At Essex Senior League level there’s inevitably a high turnover of players from one season to the next.

Several members of last season’s history-making runners-up squad have moved on from Clapton to pastures new ahead of the upcoming 2017/8 season,

Disappointing for fans, but few could complain about players moving up the football pyramid. We’re planning a feature on the destination of former Tons soon.

However, as players leave, others arrive and there have already announced 10 new additions.

Allow us to introduce the new Tons…

Ignas Budvytis (goalkeeper)

Former clubs: Winchmore Hill (2016/17), Waltham Abbey U18s (2016/17), West Thurrock (2016/17)

Mark Kavanagh (goalkeeper)

Former clubs: None.

Mark told CFC News: “I’m 22 and Clapton will be the first team I’ve ever played for. I was invited to come down for pre-season and after hearing many good things about the club, I would’ve been stupid not to sign!

“As of the season ahead, I’m very confident! The lads are pulling their weight in training & there’s a good spirit around the camp. After last season’s second place finish we’ve only got one thing in mind & that’s to go one better!”

Josh Flynn (right-back)

Former clubs: Ebbsfleet United Academy, Grays Athletic Reserves, Redbridge.

Josh told CFC News: “I’m 21 but I’ve had about a year out of the game. I play right back but I consider myself a wing back, always overlapping and supporting the play as an outlet and getting crosses into the box.

“I feel like I can develop here. Great fans and contenders for the league. I don’t see why we can’t go one better than last season and gain promotion.”

Mustafa Kahie (midfield/full-back)

Former clubs: Eton Manor, Sporting Bengal, London APSA and Braintree Town.

Mustafa is back for his second stint at the club, after briefly playing some friendlies in pre-season last year. The 22-year-old – a midfielder who can also operate at full back – went on to make 24 starts for Eton Manor.

Mustafa, who was born in Finland, told CFC News: “I joined Clapton because i have a good relationship with the players and staff.

“I also love the atmosphere at the club and i know I’ll enjoy my time at the club. I also have faith in our team to do really well this season. Good bunch of guys willing to cause many upsets.”

Jordan Meikle (centre-back)

Former clubs: Sporting Bengal, Enfield 1893, Wadham Lodge

A seasoned Essex Senior League centre-back who started his career at Sporting Bengal, playing under Anwar Uddin and Steven Clarke.

He then spent time at Enfield 1893 and was most recently at Wadham Lodge under James Falaise & Kevin Lucas before a foot ligament injury ruled him out of the final games of the season.

He told CFC News he had a few offers from other ESL teams for the upcoming season, but decided that “Clapton was the stand out. Personally I felt it is the right club for me to develop and improve.”

Jordan is eager to push on from where Clapton finished last season as runners up and is looking forward to getting started.He learned about the team from former Ton James Briggs and experienced Clapton supporters firsthand as captain of their Sunday league team Downs FC.

Manager Jonny Fowell has said: “So glad to get Jordan on board, experienced centre-back and will improve our squad this season. Fans will love him. Welcome J”.

Jesse McKenzie (centre-back)

Former clubs: Bromley FC.

Jesse told CFC News: “I’m 18 years old, last season I played for and captained Bromley FC academy side. I’m a ball playing centre half that enjoys a good challenge.

“I’ve signed for Clapton because I feel that I’ve got a lot to learn and Clapton to is the best place for me to improve physically and also enhance my game understanding.”

Manager Jonny Fowell said: The staff are excited about this young 18-year-old centre-back. The former Bromley FC academy captain could be a real gem in the making”

Jeffrey Cobbiah (winger)

Former clubs: Bethnal Green United, Jolof Sports, East One

Jeffrey Was most recently with Jolof Sports in the Essex Alliance, where he scored 31 goals in 25 game last season.

Manager Jonny Fowell said: “Jeffrey is a silky skilful winger, quick direct and bags of skills. Came from Roy Fontaine who was at Enfield Town FC as 1st team coach.”

Craig Heskey (striker)

Former clubs: Clapton (2008/09), Sporting Bengal (2012/13), Harefield United (2015/16), Amersham Town (2016/17), Burnham Ramblers (2016/17).

Tons fans will be hoping that the goalscoring gene runs in the family as we welcome back Craig Heskey, cousin of former England international Emile.

Craig, 27, is an international striker in his own right. He played for Clapton 9 years ago and while at the club represented Antigua & Barbuda twice at under-20 level.

He was last seen at Burnham Ramblers in the ESL last season where he scored 4 goals in 10 appearances.

In a recent Dogcast interview, recently departed defender and last season’s Clapton player of the year Dylan Ebengo named Heskey as the best striker he had faced in the ESL in 2016/17.

Craig is also academy coach and a director of New Revolution Sports alongside Tons assistant Andre Thomas – the company that will be running Clapton’s U18s team this season.

Akin Obamakin (striker)

Former clubs: Barnet Youth, Tonbridge Angels Reserves.

Akin, 23, told CFC News: “Whilst studying in Birmingham I played for my university and had short spells at clubs in the Midlands area.

“Type of player: tricky, pace and hardworking and looking to score goals for Clapton FC!”

Manager Jonny Fowell said: “We are really excited about Akin, very quick, strong and direct. We believe he will do well this season. I really think once fit akin can cause defenders trouble with his pace. It’s frightening.”

Lee Flavin of Non League Chance said: “Delighted for our player Akin joining Clapton for the season. What a lovely lad. Hopefully he gifts you plenty of goals. He certainly has it in the locker.”

Caiden Imbert-Thomas (striker)

Former clubs: Euro Dagenham, Westhamians U21, Leatherhead U21, May & Baker

Caiden, 19, is the son of former Clapton manager Wilfred Thomas.

He told CFC News: “I signed to get first team experience with a good team that plays good football and with good management to guide me.

“I play as a false striker or a number ten I like to roam about and link up with my midfield. Also I’m creative and can score goals and assist too I’ve got good feet and a decent injection of pace but finding the net is a good strength too.

“I don’t see us doing anything but winning the league this year as the sides solid and good enough to do so.”

Breaking: Yusuf Bello

Eleventh signing announced today – more details to follow.